Making the most of the summer (barbel article, entry 56)

Although most of my barbel outings so far this season have incorporated an overnight stay on the river bank, the first session I am writing about in this week’s Journal entry did not allow me the luxury of fishing through the night.

I suppose many, particularly the non-angler, would challenge the use of the word ‘luxury’ in that context. After all, where is the pleasure in spending the whole night by the edge of a river, often cold and wet, with nothing more than a few rats and mice to keep you company! However, as the angler will of course testify, it is the period of darkness – and the hour or so either side – which generally presents the best opportunity of catching specimen fish.

In order to make the most of the session, I was fishing by Noon, after having baited the swim with seeds on immediate arrival at the peg. One good thing about the Dove is that you never know when a barbel will take the bait. Although certain time brackets (as per previous comments) are more productive than others, I have nevertheless caught fish at every point around the clock.

On this occasion I had just over four hours to wait before my left hand rod arched over and the clutch started to scream, as the fish did its utmost to distance itself from the danger that it had just unwittingly put itself in. The initial struggle was the usual tug-of-war scenario, with neither the hunter nor the hunted prepared to yield.

However, the former – I am happy to report – gained the upper hand, and once the fish was into the open river and away from potential far bank snags, the contest was all but over. Weighing in at 7lb 9oz, it is my smallest barbel from the Dove this season. There is no doubt that the average weight of the fish has gone up quite considerably since I started fishing the river four seasons ago.

Later on in the session, I became aware of a group of people slowly working their way downstream. It turned out to be a local Mink Hunt. With dogs crashing through the overhanging trees and working their way through the river, it just about killed off the swim for the day.

I didn’t mind the Hunt being there (after all, they have as much right to be on the river as I do) and I certainly have no objections to them on moral grounds. However, it would have been nice to have at least had an acknowledgement that they were ‘sorry’ for the disturbance – which on a small and intimate river like the Dove is the kiss of death. Good PR can be maintained with a little thought.

And with hunting, shooting and fishing under attack like never before, we need all the friends we can get. Yes, I am aware that I have ‘lumped’ all three together – you can see what my feelings are on the issue, and in particular with how I see the attack plan of the antis.

However, for anglers ‘on the fence’, the situation on the Dove may have swung their feelings the other way, and the apparent insensitivity of the Mink Hunt may have left them with a negative outlook. Let it be a lesson for all of us anglers (whatever our feelings about the other country sports) that we are indeed ambassadors for the pastime that we love so much.

My second session, again on the Dove, was devoid of any more incidents. In fact, apart from one passing angler who was roving along the river, I did not encounter a living soul. This time I was here to fish an overnighter, and with the recent demise of my Brotel, it was time to christen my new Fox Evolution Classic.

It’s impossible to make too much comment on just one night, but it does seem to be just what I am looking for, and with some heavy rain during the evening, it kept me dry. I do like the flexibility to change the shape of the shelter and I can see that being of great benefit during the coming weeks and months, as we enter autumn and winter.

The river was very low and clear, and with Polaroid glasses I was able to see right across to the other side, making note of the underwater terrain from rocks to streamer weed. It’s not often on a northern river that we get to count the stones on the bottom!

Fishing by early afternoon, as the evening drew in I had a fish on for a few moments that unfortunately became another hook-pull statistic. As the fish felt like a good one, I couldn’t console myself either! Knowing that I don’t get too many bites at the Dove cherry, I was wondering if I would remain fish-less for this session.

However, that scenario was not meant to be, and at 10.30 p.m. with darkness well and truly set in, I found myself doing battle with another muscle bound fish that had taken a liking to my boilie. It really did put up a good fight, and made several lunges back into the river as I attempted to net it. However, on the fourth try, I finally won the contest. Although not a particularly long fish, it was very fat and I could see that it was going to be around the magical ten-pound mark. But which side of the point would it fall?

Well, I am pleased to say it was the right side, as far as I am concerned. At 10-2-8, it is my fourth Dove double of the season and four from twelve fish as far as the river itself is concerned. However, although a 33% double strike-rate may sound impressive, I have put some serious hours in to catch the fish.

As you can see from the accompanying photograph, it was such a warm evening that I fished right through in just a shirt and shorts. Even though we had some fairly heavy outbursts of rain at times, the temperature remained high, and I was definitely guilty of taking advantage of the weather, and making the most of the summer!

This was to be the only fish of the session, and as morning broke I started to pack away. With Wolves (I am a season ticket holder) playing Manchester City in a friendly on the evening I wanted to go home for a sleep so that I was fresh for the game. Talking of luxuries, as I did at the start of the article, although I am happy with a flask for short sessions – when it comes to overnighters I wouldn’t be without my gas heater and kettle.

There is nothing like seeing in a new day, sitting at the water’s edge with a piping hot fresh cup of tea in your hand. Flasks are OK, but past a certain point, the tea itself becomes stewed and not that nice. Plus, lukewarm tea is not my… well…cup of tea!

(Originally published August 2004)

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